milkweed blossom
Image by Sandy Repp

Milkweed blossom

Plants for Sunny Wet Spots Q&A

By Pat Curran, Horticulture Educator, Tompkins County Cooperative Extension

(Originally published in June 2010)

Question: I have a wet spot in my lawn where the grass is struggling. I would like to replace the grass with plants for birds and butterflies. What can I grow there?

There are a number of plants that will thrive in a soggy spot. To lure birds and butterflies, I would suggest using natives. Some shrubs for a soggy spot include summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), buttonwood (Cephalanthus occidentalis), fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), winterberry (a deciduous holly, Ilex verticillata), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), pussy willow (Salix discolor), and red or black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia, A. melanocarpa). If there's room for a small tree, try sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana. Perennials for a soggy spot include swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), beebalm (Monarda didyma), marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Joe pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum, E. maculatum, E. purpureum), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), northern blue flag iris (Iris versicolor), cardinal flower and great blue lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis, L. siphilitica), golden ragwort (Senecio aureus), tall meadowrue (Thalictrum pubescens), and Culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum).

So you see there is no shortage of possibilities. As always, a pH test for acidity/alkalinity would be a good idea. A pH test costs $2 at the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension office. Please call 272-2292 for more information.

For more information on gardening, including plant habitat requirements, consult the Cornell gardening website or call the horticultural hotline at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County at 272-2292.

Last updated January 29, 2021